There is much to be thankful for in the dogged determination of Pete Hoida’s generation of British abstract practitioners. Sustained by close friendships and a passionate commitment to the historical continuum of painting rather than professional allegiances, commercially rewarded nihilism or over-theorised (and under realized) notions of political agency, they have long been carrying the flag for an ambitious programme of abstraction. In the face of relative institutional neglect and the divergent ambitions of younger generations they have continued, in varying degree, to make art which is sincere in its commitments and experimental in its approach. This combination is in abundant evidence across Hoida’s two current exhibitions in Stroud, and is very rarely accorded enough value.
A corollary of relative institutional neglect is a tendency towards ossified critical positions. Caught up in the backlash against Greenbergian aesthetics, a tendency to ‘bridge the gulf between the ardent spirituality of the Abstract Expressionists… and the over-cool design-conscious aesthetic of the post painterly generation’  has been read all too frequently as historical anachronism, formalist dogma or outmoded stagnation. Hoida’s work reminds us of the fallacy of such dismissals. Whilst Hoida no doubt establishes a dialogue with mid-century American painting – from the formal and gestural concerns of the Abstract Expressionists through to the surface treatments of Frankenthaler, Olitski and Poons – it is the wealth of visual propositions and the vivacity of the pictorial incidents carried in the work that accounts for its power.
Ezekiel, 2011, 106 x 124cm
My introduction to Hoida’s work came a month ago through a small catalogue of the exhibition of new work on display at The Museum in the Park in Stroud. Morenita Silenciosa, 2012, had impressed in reproduction – appearing to extend connections to Robert Motherwell’s Elegies and Hoyland’s late infinity space paintings. It was my pleasure that such comparisons were proved to be, at best, simplistic. Whilst the central cluster of paint does have something of the Elegiac, the tonal and gestural modulations within the form capture our intrigue in the flesh. The swirls of curving paint, which alternate between a transparent ghostly presence and a gestural, roaming calligraphy, in fact seem closer to Pollock than Motherwell (though they are much more measured). Controlled within a formal unit, however, the gestural marks remain balanced within the wider spatial structure of the painting. Our minds may glide over the dynamism of the marks, but it is their resolution within the canvas as a whole that holds our attention.
If there is undoubtedly a basis of comparison with Hoyland (and Olitski) in the cosmic sense of deep space that opens up behind the foregrounded form, Morenita Silenciosa complicates the spatial continuum. With the hold of the pink and white blobs on the surface, the scattering of yellow across the celestial backdrop, the shadows of black which sit as ripples in the ground, the playful impression of what looks like a barbeque grill burnt into the upper right, the carefully modulated drips which anchor the central form to the edges and surface of the canvas, we are given a tremendous range of marks and gestures. This punctuates the seduction and ease of visual habitation we feel before Hoyland’s late sublime and creates a more complex structural rhythm across the canvas and between the surface and recessional space than we find in Olitski. We are held between structure and expanse, recession and flatness, sublimity and artifice.
Sprechgesang, 2012, 92 x 243cm
The range of perceptual incidence offered by these alternations – above and beyond any theoretical complexities – marks their appeal. The four works in the show which broadly mirror Morenita Silenciosa’s format, show Hoida playing with the lowest thresholds of his colourism and holding it in balance with a subtle tonal control. The paintings have a dusk-like quality – their small flickers of colour by turn illuminating or emerging from the half-toned backdrops. In balance with the baroque space of the ground the licks of paint reveal Hoida’s mastery of colour as a spatial agent. As such, we gain a hint of Matisse’s influence or the white surface flickers of Constable, in paintings that, in reproduction, seem to be millions of miles from either.
In Sprechgesang, the format is complicated – compellingly so – by the intrusion of a second globular entrail, which hugs the horizontally stretching central form. Here a representational flicker of passing clouds is too strong to go unnoted, but the strength of the association lies not in any representative fidelity so much as in a phenomenological association. What strikes is the harnessing of a sense of liminality often experienced in landscape. Above and beyond any specific passing of clouds the relation of the two forms – their locking, mirroring and weighted interaction – evokes something of the perceptual tension experienced in constructing a memory – the strange sensation by which we feel ourselves fixing our impressions of visual incidents in landscape, even as we remain aware that the real force of what we see lies precisely in its temporal unfolding. This sensation of loosely harnessed instability resonates across much of Hoida’s oeuvre and perhaps best summarises the strong, but somewhat elusive, relation of his work to the natural world. In his approach to edge, space and structural disposition the architectonic never quite succeeds in interrupting the sensation of transience.  This persists even amidst the paintings with geometric elements, which could be seen, broadly, to make up the rest of the exhibition of new work; from the clear foregrounding of geometric units against the edges of the canvas in works like Joshua and Ezekiel to the floating, near-geometric forms in Fire in the Iron or Big Pitman.
Big Pitman, 2013, 110 x 239cm
Of the four Big Pitman, 2013 is by a distance the most ambitious painting. Here Hoida seems to be setting the more architectonic balancing of tonal units across the canvas which characterized his work of the preceding period (see The Pearl-Oyster and the Fox Fur, 2009 – on show at St Mary of the Angels) in a dialogue with the kind of dappled infinites and subtle tonal modulation of the recent work. There is something decidedly and joyfully anarchic in the complexity of the result – with drips, stains, washes, veils, dapples, strokes and sprays of paint combining to create something closer to the excitement of deep spatial articulation in early Russian constructivism than the expanses of late Hoyland.
Joshua, 2011, 133 x 38cm
Big Pitman is a painting I would like more time with as I left remaining unconvinced as to whether it resolves. For all the baroque variety of incidence, the fixity of that (hyper foregrounded?) white in the centre seems to sit awkwardly amidst the diverse textural (but much less definitive spatial) assertions of the surrounding canvas. There is a floating sensation – of a distinctly deep space variety – but the central form draws us away from the surrounding interplays time and time again. The surround has a tendency to assert itself as textural – like veils of spatially charged chainmail sheeting – but does not hold our focus nor create an architectonic balance to match the progressive thrust of the central form.
Fire in the Iron, 2012, 131 x 135cm
Fire in the Iron, 2012, for me veers too far in the direction of a centralized form against an unconvincing ground – and may offer a note of warning. The strange yellow anchor lines reduce the spatial construction of the scene to something approaching a representation of a space satellite in front of a pebbledash cell diagram. Whilst the variety of marks continue to impress they too often feel in conflict with the spatial assertions of the ground. We can circulate the form, but its centralized grip against the unambiguously flat sprays and drips reduces the image quality and spatial interplay to a kind of roughly organized Halley-like frontal form floating before a textural, slightly recessed, but ultimately disappointingly flat ground.
If such works sometimes fail they also reveal the extent to which Hoida continues to push his work in new directions – to combine surface, marks, structure and colour in renewed formats and not to rest upon the spatial or structural accomplishments of previous bodies of work. It is a refreshingly open approach that suggests a deep confidence in the continuing possibilities offered by his practice and the importance of finding new means by which to enrich the perceptual potential of abstract painting.
Weston Central, 1993, 118 x 282cm
Hoida’s tendency to alternate and test new formats is visible across the three decades of work on display at the small church in Brown’s Hill. Three paintings in particular caught my attention. Weston Central, seems to suggest that the Halley comparison may be more than just a reflection of the recent preoccupations of this site – its florescent pink, topped with scrawling white and green lines have a synthetic bombast that brings back something of Halley’s anti-pastoral preoccupations. What marks it out though is more familiar – a lingering sensation of indeterminacy, the refusal to reduce edges to definitive divides, the extension of diverse spatial and textural assertions around which we must feel our way through a process of mutual inflection – a canvas which cries out to be inhabited even as the surface complicates our motion.
The Pearl-Oyster and the Fox Fur, 2009, 65 x 221cm
The Pearl-Oyster and the Fox Fur, 2009 and Damson Hull, 2008 show an array of modulated tones, gestures and textures interlocking in what is perhaps (to followers of Hoida’s generation) a more familiar structural layout. The works are, despite the generational association, accomplished and embody something fantastically incomplete, their variously handled (semi) planar slabs, seeming to float behind the surface in a perpetual instability, our eyes slipping over their edges and around the spatial and structural assertions of the scene. Here, once more, is that sense of liminality and perceptual intrigue. The subtle disposition of colour and structure, space and surface, offer a range of visual incidents that seems to be forever arrested in the process of transformation.
Damson Hull, 2008, 136 x 324cm
Pete Hoida’s two exhibitions serve as a potent reminder of the strength of a generation of English painters who continue to find their inspiration in the realm of the visual possibilities of abstract painting of broadly Greenbergian lineage – but also look far and wide in their exploration of paintings’ continuum. The paintings’ charm derives from the rich visual incidents they continue to gather in their midst. Far from the elitism with which such a lineage is charged by post-modernist attackers there is a fantastic accessibility to Hoida’s painting. It was an accessibility I felt most forcefully on my return from his exhibition, listening to Miles Davis’ trumpet against Jimmy Cobb’s soft snare drum in Blue in Green and glancing out of the train window to note the dappled yellow and green of a passing rape field. The soft interpenetration of texture, tone and rhythm alongside a certain excitement in my knowingly futile attempts to fix something of their fugitive presence in my mind resonated strongly with Hoida’s painting.
Pete Hoida: The Black Morar Series 2010-2012 is on at The Museum in the Park, Stroud until the 7th of July. Running simultaneously at St Mary of the Angels, Brownshill, Stroud is Pete Hoida: Paintings 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s.
 Alan Gouk: New Paintings, Poussin, 2012
 This interpretation was given considerable succor by a brief conversation with Mel Gooding, during a chance meeting as we passed around the retrospective exhibition.
 This ending was written before reading Sam Cornish’s rather similar account of Motherwell on the bus. Passing windows seems to be in the air.
Just been to the Hoida show. Mel Gooding is correct. Damson Hull is a museum picture, only he doesn’t say which Museum he has in mind. Can’t see what the fuss is about Big Pitman. The white centre sits just fine. For me, Dansette is the best of the sprayed pictures. All in all, a very fine show from one of our best painters. Why the neglect? Because it’s just painting?
Just as the kinds of sonority Debussy introduced into music for the piano for the first time, in which a physical reverberation animates the air in the room in live performance, and there is an optimum distance from which the listener can experience it, taken up by later composers in many forms without ever quite surpassing it, - so, a genuine colour painting, as Sam perceptively commented some time back, ” charges the space” in front of it, so that there is an optimum viewing distance, and the colour resonances seem to hang in the air out in front, creating an atmospheric buzz, not so much an illusion as a physical-optical sensation – a simple fact about the truly modern picture. Not all paintings, however much they may rely on colour chording, achieve this or wish to achieve it. There are other forms of tangibility just as persuasive, but when it does happen, it is because the painter has subliminally been alive to the possibility and sleep-walked his way towards it – because to do so deliberately would probably undermine the possibility. The curious fact about Pete Hoida’s new paintings is that this animation of the air in front of the picture has occurred by keeping the colour quiet, with subtle gradations of greyed blues, violets and ochres against a grey ground, shading to black.
It is gradation of colour which best gives atmospheric depth in painting, but here too it gives forward pressure, while strong oppositions assert the surface and the paint which carries them. Even in Damson Hull, from an earlier phase in Hoida’s work, the opposition of primary colours is avoided, mediated or interlaced with shades of grey [ though not fifty of them - sorry ], sometimes achieved by layering white strokes directly into black to produce a silken effect. This is a picture in which the physical surface is asserted more emphatically than in the sprayed-ground pictures which followed it, but between these two poles there is plenty of room for manoeuvre, and Hoida is well placed to continue to explore, – I’d say to mine this rich seam, if I hadn’t already banned metaphoric cliche from art-writing.
This is not the woeful subjectivity-run-riot of David Sweet’s advancing trains and trench warfare, though he too seems to have picked up on something about the “presentness” [Fried] of the modern picture. It used to be called " bodying forth".
There has been far too much subjectivity in art writing in recent decades. What we need is some simple though hard earned objectivity. The big question about "presentness" is whether it is founded on objective fact, or a delusion of the observing subject; and can there ever be a definitive answer when the possibility of "the objectivity of taste" is confounded every day. No matter how awful the art -- the Gallacher Bros, the Chapman Bros, --, there is always someone who is going to "like" it. I am not offering this analogy with Debussy's piano pieces [ Images, Estampes] as a direct formative or causal link with the recent Hoida’s, or as a validation of the methods of abstract painting in general, since they, [ music and painting ] are irreducible to one another – but just to indicate one aspect of the way the sensation of physicality in painting has mutated since cubism.
Yggdrasil at the Jade Isthmus 51 x 252 cm November 2007
and working in remote rural Gloucestershire since the mid seventies,
Pete Hoida's rich, uncompromisingly painterly work has been too
little seen in London over the years so this new show of recent
work (SE1 Gallery) is especially welcome. Marrying an abstract
distinctly English landscape sensibility that draws on Heron and
Hitchens with the the fierce transatlantic colourism of Hans Hoffman
and de Stael's velvety tachism, Hoida arrives at an intensely
personal synthesis, resonating with landscape feeling.
Nicholas Usherwood, Galleries Magazine, May 2008
The Return, October 2002, 173 x 88 cm
Is Pete Hoida one of the most important abstract painters of his
generation? Born in Birkenhead in 1944, he was on the London scene
in the 60s and early 70s, and has painted from the hillside of his
isolated Gloucestershire home since 1974. Hoida’s uncompromising
vision of art, and his pursuit of that vision without regard for
changing tastes and fashions, can be daunting to the uninitiated,
and is too easily taken for granted by the initiated. Neither reaction
At his recent exhibition of new paintings in Cirencester (September
2006, Ashcroft Modern Art), the immediate impact on each and every
visitor walking into the gallery was the impact of colour: the vibrant,
saturated phenomenology which simply happens to us behind the eyes.
The mediate impact which followed was both conceptual and cultural,
as uninitiated viewers wondered about the intentions and technique
of the artist, and initiated viewers tried to evaluate the paintings
according to formal criteria and historical precedent.
Neither immediate impact nor stock conceptual appraisal will uncover
these artworks. This is because they require input from the viewer,
who must stand in front of them, settle into them, and simply LOOK
for a few minutes at the very least. Otherwise the viewer will not
see the paintings at all; Hoida is in the business of eliciting
temporal experiences, not a quick conceptual fix. He produces colourful
objects which have the potential to cause a carefully controlled
array of experiences in the viewer who runs his or her eyes over
the surface of the canvas. Over time, one shape will eclipse another,
a block of colour will move to the foreground as another recedes
to peripheral vision, and the form that once made sense of the whole
will fall away within a sudden gestalt switch that changes everything,
only to initiate the process all over again until a balance is achieved.
This may be the balance Hoida intended and it may be your own.
The paintings in the Cirencester show ranged upwards in size from
small canvases (approx 50 x 50 cm) to large ones (3 x 1.5 metres).
The small canvases fall into two series. In the first, the title
of one of the paintings, Sweetie, succinctly summed
up the overall mood, with its delicious colours and Braquesque shapes
superimposed. In the second, which includes paintings such as Rosy-fingered
Dawn, and Co their? (Who will say?), there
are psychedelic watery backgrounds on which more heavily textured
blocks of colours have been placed, sometimes interspersed with
avant-garde objets collaged within the paint and with delightful
squiggles of paint from the tube aptly applied.
The larger canvases of the selection were in the main ‘cooler’,
both in the colour tone and fashion sense of the word, with the
blacks, purple and baby blue hues of Lesson on the Flood-tide,
Sobhrach and Sedge-leveller replacing
the hotter reds and greens of Hoida’s last exhibited oeuvre.
A reminiscence of industrial landscape may be evoked in some viewers
by the rust-colour interludes of the natural moor purples. Uisghé
completed the selection perfectly; it was the large canvas which
immediately confronted the viewer in the first room, but it repaid
several visits to take in the forms and effects produced by the
abundant colours on display.
There were also two mid-sized works at Cirencester, Vulcan
and The Return, which are painted in portrait orientation,
and which, while making use of motif and formal structure, avoid
the limitations of the minimalist genre by employing brush marks
and texture to vivid effect. Hoida provides the paintings with their
imaginative titles after they are finished - he is a published poet
- and sometimes the naming takes place after considerable time has
passed. So given the non-representational nature of the paintings,
how are they named? This is a question often asked of Hoida, and
yet there is no particular mystery. The answer is: in the same way
that pieces of music, almost always abstract, are named with imaginative
titles such as ‘Epistrophy’ or ‘Straight, No Chaser’.
At a studio pre-view of works to be shown in the forthcoming exhibition
at Stroud, I noted that the cool theme in Hoida’s current
works continues, extending as far as the almost black canvas of
Big Red Obscured. She moves through the
Fair and Wild and Sweet Foil, Change of all Objects
Carry, indicate yet another new direction in Hoida’s
work, in which patches of bare canvas are permitted to ruminate
behind the cool, sketchy, and soft patches of paint which bind and
balance across the whole. Big Chrysanth. Man may
well steal the show on both first and subsequent impressions, for
the vibrant colours employed amply repay sustained reflection; the
viewer should soon be able to make inroads into the structure of
this major composition.
Hoida’s painting is in the modernist tradition. The art of
past masters such as Goya, Braque, Matisse, Hans Hofmann and Patrick
Heron inform his painting to the core: Hoida paints with what Gadamer
called wirkungsgeschichtliches Bewusstsein (‘effective-historical
consciousness’), that is, a consciousness of the past which
actively informs present behaviour. However, the viewer does not
need to know anything about the artists who have influenced Hoida.
In the same way, the undeniable influence of landscape upon his
work does not need to be grasped by the viewer. A certain tradition
in art and the natural landscape have already been effective in
the production of the painting, and so fall away as necessary comparables
once the painting is extant. The result is laid out on the canvas
and the viewer is free to enjoy it.
© Dr Cedari Ray
The Bonny Stooks 40 x 60 cm December 1999
"Then I was back in the McLean exhibition again, and this
time Paul Tonkin came up and said there was an exhibition in the
Delibar in Charterhouse Street I should see. It was paintings
by Pete Hoida, someone I'd never heard of. Tonkin said he was
good and I should go, so the next day I did because I took him
It turned out to be a coffee bar I'd been in earlier on that very
day of the McLean opening, pitching an idea for a book to some
publishers. I'd noticed the art and thought it was the abstract
version of the paintings you often get in bars and restaurants.
The figurative paintings are usually big-breasted, big-eyed, charcoally
nudes; maybe with a flame-red Fez as a flash of colour or a bit
of cobalt blue wine bottle. The abstract version is usually sweet
coloured misty amorphous blob things. But I'd noticed that these
paintings weren't bad. I just hadn't thought about it any more
or bothered to look closer, because I was busy and it was only
a coffee bar. If anything, I noticed there were a couple of characteristics
that marked them out in a negative way for me; one was a type
of mark made by squirting acrylic from a plastic container. The
worms of paint seemed out of scale with the rest of the object.
They made a gross effect. Another mark I automatically rejected
was a kind of pat or dab of gel-thickened paint that seemed too
much like cake mixture or at any rate something from cooking,
something that just stood on the surface as if waiting to be spread
When I looked again today, I still rejected these marks, but now
I was unsure what the reason was, if it was just a prejudice.
The paint was applied in ways that got a lot out of a little.
There was a great range of little effects, all of them pleasurable.
The colours were odd and off, like suntan or baby blue or cream
and yellow or speckled brown and yellow. But it wasn't horrible,
but earthy and realistic, or realistic to the spirit of lyrical
or lovely or moody feeling that everyone has had from the landscape
at some time. The ethos or mood or proposition of the show seemed
to be that nature and the visual world are good, and abstract
swathes of paint can stand for this experience. I think it's a
good idea and I look forward to when it comes around again as
an art fashion."
Matthew Collings, Modern Painters, Spring 2000
Four Gloucestershire Artists, Axiom
Arts Centre, Cheltenham
Fishin' Everyday, 140 x 31 cm, 1985
Pete Hoida relinquishes drawings altogether and
uses the textural and chromatic energy of thick paint to give
his pictures their peculiar light, space and vitality. In his
Light at Whale Wharf for example, a densely packed surface
of thick swathes of paint generates its own hidden space across
the Axiom's spacious gallery. Reminiscent of Hitchens in his most
lyrical and earthy mood, Hoida has a good touch and feel for movement,
and his work has a tactile as well as purely visual or cerebral
Peter Davies, Art Review, February 1986